Texas A&M’s College of Liberal Arts news portal recently posted an article expounding on the work of a Psychology Ph.D. student’s recent research into cognitive and behavioral patterns in men and women as they relate to infidelity and sexual impulses, indicating that initial reporting from several news agencies mischaracterized the findings as proof that, “men cannot control themselves.” Natasha Tidwell, a Department of Psychology doctoral student at Texas A&M, noted that, “Some outlets have been reporting that the results of our study is that men can’t control themselves,” as claim that misses the mark of Tidwell’s study. “That’s not at all what we’re saying. Men have stronger sexual impulses, not weaker control strength.”
A quick search of the reportage on Ms. Tidwell’s study reveals several headlines that speak to her point about media mischaracterizations, as well as other editorial angles, seeking to parse out whether or not men are to blame for their sexual misconduct, or if it is simply a by-product of nature.
The crux of Tidwell’s study, is simply to reveal that sexual impulses are indeed much stronger in men than women, and that both sexes demonstrate equal ability to control these impulses.
Read other research articles related to sexual behavior:
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Tidwell began her research with a simple yet intriguing question:“What we’re trying to answer is the question of ‘why,’” Tidwell said in the TAMU article. “What’s going on under the hood, cognitively?”
Her research approach involved two innovative experimental approaches on both men and women. The first experiment sought to test sexual impulses by asking participants to reflect on taboo, “off-limits,” or unavailable sexual temptations, such as a sexual attraction to an unavailable member of the opposite sex. After this visualization, participants were asked to answer several questions designed to ascertain sexual impulse strength, as well as the participants’ attempt to control the sexual impulse.
From this first experiment, Tidwell reported that men clearly experienced a stronger sexual impulse than women, as well as a more demonstrative move toward acting on those impulses.
The second experiment, which involved a rapid reaction time task, sought to determine differences in self-control between men and women: “Participants in the second experiment were briefly shown images of members of the opposite sex of various attractiveness, tagged either “good for you” or “bad for you.” The men and women were asked to accept or reject the person based on the computer-generated tags. The results showed that men are as able to exert control over their responses as women.”
From the findings, Tidwell concluded that “Impulse and control are not the same things,” and that, “Men are more likely to act.” However, this finding is not because men have less self-control than women; the study revealed that men and women indeed possess the same amount of self-control. The difference, instead, lies in the fact that men exhibited a stronger sexual impulse than women,” which appears to be the differential in why men are found to be more likely to cheat.